It was long ago and far away. I was a young, thirty-something (oh so long ago and far away). I was on a trip to Seattle with a friend. I succeeded in getting him to move to Seattle, become a tech writer, and eventually get me into the great tech world in the sky. But that is another story.
This story is about Dickens. We got on the train in Salt Lake City, waited for a very long time before the train finally left (I remember it as being in the middle of the night), and we headed toward Seattle. It was a leisurely pace. You could look out the window of the train and see cars buzzing by. And we stopped at every town, I’m sure, between Salt Lake City and Seattle. That means very many, many, many towns. We gave everyone in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington a chance to climb aboard our train or disembark (I think that’s what you do with a train).
As I said, a leisurely pace. I brought a book along: Charles Dicken’s A Mutual Friend. I settled down to read--a very, very, very big book. I read the first scene. Father and daughter on a boat, a dark filthy Thames, salvaging a body. I had such detailed visual images of the scene. (As I thought about this more, I realized I had watched a very good version of a Mutual Friend on Masterpiece Theatre.) In this case television was my friend. The flashes I saw, the images, almost the smells were so much more intense than my feeble imagination could have allowed.
So I settled into the book. You don’t press toward the ending in a 1000 page novel by Charles Dickens. You settle in, relax, enjoy, listen, let the emerging plot trails intermingle and twist in your head and heart. The train was perfect. I let go, settled in, relaxed. And the book took over, intermingled with the leisurely pace, the stops, the twists. . . . . .
I was hooked. This will always remain one of my most impressive experiences with a book.And an introduction to a writer I love. So many wonderful books to come. But I learned how to read and savor Dickens on a train with our mutual friend.